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The First Epistle to Timothy

Commentary

1:1

This verse clarifies that the nature of a Christian calling is no less than obedience to the command of God.

1:9

This list of sins is derived from the first eight of the Ten Commandments.[1]

1:10

The subject of the Greek sentence means literally "men-bedders", which resembles the Hebrew of Leviticus 18:22 (see comments there), placing this within a list of sins under the old covenant.[2] See also Deuteronomy 22:6, Romans 1:27.

2:1–4

is about prayer.

2:8–15

Verses 11–15 can be misinterpreted if they are read without looking at their context which starts at verse 8.[3 p.70] Though these verses have been used to limit the opportunities of ministry for women, it seems likely that the aim was to manage difficulties that arose out of the culture of the day. Most women were denied education, so the married ones tended to ask their husbands all sorts of questions. 1 Corinthians 14:34 says they should not interrupt the church service to ask questions, but should wait until they get home.

Brown points out that Paul acknowledges the praying, preaching and teaching role of women in Romans 16:1–3, 1 Corinthians 11:5, 1 Corinthians 16:19, and 1 Timothy 5:13, as does Luke in Acts 18:26.[1] One might add Romans 16:6, 12 and Philippians 4:2–3 to this list.

Green[4 p.88] says the word translated "authority" here is "authentein" which is a rare word used nowhere else in the New Testament. Its usual context is in connection with murder or ritual prostitution! It is difficult to say what its use here implies. (The more usual word for authority is "exestin", = right to decide, as used in 1 Corinthians 8:9 and translated there in the NRSV as "liberty".) The word "teach" (didache) is clear, but how could anyone teach yet not hold authority?

The question of rule appears also in 1 Corinthians 11:2–16, Ephesians 5:23 and 1 Timothy 5:14. See Drane[5 p.389f] for a discussion of Paul's attitudes to race, gender, slavery etc., and the background of Gnosticism with a tendency to exploitation of men by women. See also the comment on Genesis 2:20.

3:2–12

These instructions are all about self-control. The requirement for bishops (v.2) and deacons (:12) to be married only once is ambiguous (as is Titus 1:6); it might require monogamy, or someone whose past is not complicated by divorce.

3:11

Some translations interpret this verse as indicating deacons and their wives, but the Greek text more closely suggests male and female deacons. Pliny confirms that deaconesses existed in 112 C.E.

3:16

This verse is a minimal creed.

4:3

Platonism taught that everything in this universe is a projection of a thought of God (cf. Colossians 1:15). The original thought is far more glorious than the "shadows" we see. Gnostics took this idea further and said that earthly things are evil and only spiritual things are good; therefore all out physical appetites should be suppressed. Paul may be challenging this idea through this verse. Similar ideas nevertheless recurred, such as in the Cathars in the 12th Century. The efforts to put down the Cathars created the organisation that became the Spanish Inquisition.

4:9

The "true saying" counters the myths in the earlier verses of this chapter (e.g. verse 7).

4:10

This is an intriguing verse. Will everybody be saved through Jesus? This would seem at odds with much teaching elsewhere. Perhaps the writer means only to emphasize that salvation through Jesus is offered to everybody, unlike Gnosticism which was very elitist.

6:10

Perhaps the writer is thinking of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1–10. This verse is often misquoted as "money is the root of all evil", but it is really a warning against idolatry.

6:14

This verse shows that at least one early Christian minister was asked to keep not the whole Jewish law but the Ten commandments (Exodus 20:2–17).

6:18–19

cf. the Parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1f) who also used generosity as a way to secure his future.

6:20

This verse seems to be a warning against Gnosticism.

References:

  1. Brown, R et al (eds) New Jerome Biblical Commentary New Saddle River: Prentice-Hall 1990
  2. Kennington, Revd Paul, verbally
  3. Kuhrt, Revd Gordon An Introduction to Christian Ministry London: Church House, 2000
  4. Green, Michael Freed to Serve London: Word, 1983
  5. Drane, John Introduction to the New Testament Oxford: Lion, 1986 & 1999

© David Billin 2002–2021